Outside Attorney Joining Prosecutors On Philando Castile Shooting Case

July 29, 2016

An outside attorney will be joining the team of prosecutors considering the possibility of charges in the killing of Philando Castile earlier this month in Minnesota, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says.

Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop on July 6. As NPR reported at the time, video of the aftermath of the shooting sparked outrage and protests in Falcon Heights, Minn., and across the country:

“Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, began streaming video live on Facebook immediately after the officer fired. In the stream she said Castile was stopped for a broken taillight, had notified the officer that he was licensed to carry a handgun and was reaching for his wallet at the officer’s request when he was shot. …

“Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating, and Gov. Mark Dayton has asked the U.S. Justice Department to examine the case.”

At a press conference Friday, Choi said he would be bringing in a “special prosecutor,” Don Lewis, to work on the case — not to replace Choi, but to work with him.

Choi said that stepping aside from the case himself would be an abdication of his responsibility, and announced Lewis would be “an integral member of our team,” Minnesota Public Radio reported:

“Choi, whose office will get the Castile case once the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension completes its investigation, emphasized that no decision had been made yet on any charges in the shooting, or whether the case will be taken to a grand jury.

“Lewis, who is African-American, vowed that his work on the Castile case would be “substantial, meaningful and visible.”

“Lewis is a longtime fixture in Twin Cities legal circles. Besides his years as Hamline law school dean, he also served as an assistant United States Attorney for Minnesota. He led St. Paul’s outside investigation into the 2013 landslide at Lilydale Regional Park, in which two children died.

“He also led an independent investigation into the 2014 arrest of community activist Al Flowers in Minneapolis. Ultimately, that investigation found no officer misconduct.”

Some activists, including Flowers, questioned Lewis’ independence, MPR reports.

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